After the abrogation of Article 370 the erstwhile state of J&K was bifurcated into two union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The major reformative policy initiatives taken by the J&K administration have put urban development on fast track, boosting ease of living and ease of doing business.
Over the last three years, the J&K administration has initiated major reforms on land, housing, real estate, and infrastructure. In October 2020, the Union Home Ministry issued a notification stating that any Indian citizen can buy land (except agricultural land) in municipal areas of Jammu & Kashmir without being a domicile. This opened the floodgates for urban development.
Following this, several enabling policies were put in place to provide land parcels with clear titles to accelerate real estate and housing growth. According to information sourced from the J&K government, 185 people from outside the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir have bought land in the UT during 2020, 2021 and 2022. Amidst these developments, property tax has been introduced in J&K to ensure resource optimisation and to make urban local bodies financially self-sufficient for the purpose of sustainable development.
In order to promote ease of doing business and to attract private investment (both domestic and foreign), portals on RERA, housing (PMAY, Smart Cities Mission) were put in place, along with a single-window mechanism. RERA and the Tenancy Act were implemented; land records were digitally upgraded; and authorities like J&K Housing Board, Jammu Development Authority, and the Srinagar Development Authority coordinated their efforts for the promotion of real estate, housing and urban infrastructure.
As a part of this policy push, a national level real estate summit was organised by the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs in association with the J&K government and NAREDCO (National Real Estate Development Council) to showcase all the progressive policy initiatives taken in J&K to boost real estate and infrastructure with an aim to attract private investment and promote private-public partnerships and accelerate urban development. Following this conference, MoUs worth about Rs 19,000 crore were signed for development of residential, commercial, hospitality and recreational realty, besides infrastructure.
The J&K government is targeting 1 lakh EWS, LIG and MIG houses by 2025. According to authorities, there is a demand for 80,000 affordable housing units. J&K region as a whole presents a demand of about 3 lakh houses, according to the Housing Ministry. Already, land has been made available for a 500-acre integrated township. According to Niranjan Hiranandani, Vice Chairman, NAREDCO, Jammu holds great potential for second homes/holiday homes. Being a gateway to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, there is a great demand from people from Srinagar and other parts of the country to invest in second homes.
On the infrastructure front, J&K is witnessing a massive road, rail and air connectivity boost. A 670 km long Delhi-Amritsar-Katra greenfield expressway is being built at a cost of Rs 40,000 crore and is scheduled for December 2024 completion. The all-weather Zoji La tunnel being built at a cost of Rs 2,600 crore will reduce travel time to Ladakh from 3.5 hours to 15 minutes. Presently, the Zoji La pass that connects Srinagar with Ladakh is motorable for only 6 months in a year due to snowfall in winters. The 250-km Jammu-Srinagar 4-lane highway being built at a cost of Rs 16,000 crore will be completed by 2025. This will help reduce travel time between Jammu & Srinagar by half (from 9-10 hours to 4-5 hours).
On the rail front, completion of the 272 km Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Line by early next year will prove to be a major connectivity booster for J&K, bringing the valley closer to the rest of India. The 25-km Srinagar Metro Rail line under development will be another milestone.
Besides road and rail connectivity, air connectivity is also being further strengthened with the upgradation of Jammu and Srinagar airports. Srinagar Airport has already started international operations.
All these initiatives have borne results in terms of sourcing investments. As per J&K authorities, a total of 1559 Indian companies, including multinational companies, have made investments in J&K. Dubai’s Emaar Group has invested USD 60 million to build a shopping mall cum office complex of over 5 lakh sq ft in Srinagar. DP World Dubai, a leading global logistics company, will invest to boost logistics services in J&K. The J&K government is eyeing investment of Rs 60,000 crore.
Since Jammu and Kashmir’s economic development largely depends on tourism, a major thrust is being given to develop world-class tourism infrastructure. As many as 75 new tourism destinations - each for religious/sufi sites, cultural and heritage sites - are being developed, and new tracks being opened up. As part of the National Ropeway Development Programme, Shiv Khori Ropeway at Mata Vaishno Devi and Shankaracharya Hillock Ropeway in Srinagar are being developed. Srinagar is being given a major infrastructure facelift with all major roads being upgraded. Roads leading to world famous Mughal Gardens and key hotels are being revamped. Besides, cycle tracks are being laid across the city, and Wi-Fi zones being set up. The city beautification project involves development of the Jhelum riverfront.
The upcoming G-20 Tourism meet in Srinagar will provide an opportunity to showcase the policies that will boost tourism in J&K, including measures to develop the UT into a world-class film tourism destination – a favourite destination of filmmakers. April saw shootings of two Bollywood films: Satyaprem ki katha and Shahrukh Khan starrer Dunki. At the G-20 meet, J&K government will showcase film shooting facilities being offered with single -window clearance along with OB vans and production studios.
All these policy initiatives have paid rich dividends to boost tourism. This is clearly evident from the statistics. Against 41,000 tourists who visited J&K in 2020 and 6.60 lakh in 2021, the number of tourists in 2022 shot up to a record 23 lakhs. This has not just opened up avenues for the development of new hotels, but also other tourism related economic activities.
With all these progressive reforms and enabling policies, J&K is set on the path of speedy and sustainable urban development, putting real estate, housing and infrastructure on fast track, and in turn leading to large scale economic development of the region.